Rather unimaginative column today from Richard Littlejohn, in that it’s clearly (another) well rehearsed argument¹, but also in the sense that it rests on the premise that if Richard can’t think of a reason for something, that thing must be useless.
“But you have to ask why the NHS needs equalities and human rights ‘champions’.”
Well, off the top of my head: because we’d like everyone to have access to treatment from, and employment within, the NHS. Not only is that demanded by justice, but in the long-run will ensure we’re all healthier.
“Barnet Council, in North London, is desperately seeking a Head of Internal Audit and Ethical Governance, on £80,000 a year, plus the usual perks. How on earth have they managed without one all these years?”
As one of the comments on this column points out – it’s actually a very good question². Without auditors, who would keep a track on spending? If Barnet have genuinely been operating without one, that’s a bad thing.
He even manages to tacitly acknowledge the usefulness of one group in his rogues’ gallery, while busily reaching the opposite conclusion
“There was the great Aids scare, when no self-respecting council could bear to be without an army of HIV prevention workers. At one stage, I worked out there were more people in Britain earning a good living from Aids than were actually dying from it.”
Somehow here the lack of deaths from Aids is proof that the prevention workers weren’t necessary, not that they were a good investment that reaped results – obviously they couldn’t have been, because they were local government employees. This cynicism is circular – the job must be useless, because it was created within the public sector, and the fact that it is useless confirms that jobs created by the public sector are useless. This argument reaches its fulfillment somewhat unexpectedly in:
“Local government, in particular, is increasingly a conspiracy against the paying public, extracting ever more taxes in exchange for an ever-worsening level of provision. They’re more interested in dreaming up exciting new rules, fines and punishments and finding elaborate excuses for not doing what we pay them for – such as emptying the dustbins once a week.”
If we were putting together an argument, logically building up from our premises and the evidence we had, and we reached that conclusion, it would be safe to say that we’d got something wrong. What it claims is no less than that public bodies, across the nation, are actively and deliberately deciding that rather than achieve the aims of the democratic bodies from which their legitimacy stems, they will make life harder for people for no better reason than that they don’t like doing what they were originally appointed to do. On the balance of probabilities, it’s not a conclusion that does too well.
The reason conclusion is ridiculous is that the premises don’t stand up, entirely due to Littlejohn’s imaginative failings – local government is necessarily a Utopian exercise and his view of the improved society is very different from that of the person appointing lesbian defence instructors. The latter’s involves vulnerable members of the community being protected so they can play a full role in it; Richard can’t imagine that as a reason, even as he motivates his argument on the vulnerability of the those in the ‘competitive’ economy. The idea that there might be a good basis for these posts is never considered, entirely because he can’t see that there are inequities to resolve. His utopia doesn’t encompass the marginalised, the vision of a better world is this one but with more security and money for the lower middle-classes. The posts don’t benefit him, so he can’t imagine that they are beneficial.
This limited view of the world will ensure that he will always feel that people are misspending his money – as times change, the marginalised change, and so do the drains on taxes for him to object to. I hope for his sake that his patience hasn’t really run out, because there’ll be a lot more to come.
¹ “My columns and TV shows have featured regular Nice Work If You Can Get It sections, diligently spotlighting the ingenious and often hilarious jobs invented by councils and quangos to expand their empires and devour our taxes.”
² “Its worth clarifying that the role of internal audit is to help management identify and manage its risks across all parts of the organisation. I am sure you will agree, especially given the global financial crisis, that helping to create a culture of risk awareness and ensure a professional approach to the management of the many risks facing any given organisation (not just local authorities), is in fact a very worthwhile investment.” – Phil Gray, Communications Director, Institute of Internal Auditors.